I do see how Ysdrasill’s experience is a problem for Zoominfo.
Two examples: The simplest is the old white pages in the phone book. You were glad to have your phone number in the book in case someone you wanted to hear from needed to find you. But over time the number of people who you wanted to find you was vastly outnumbered by the number of entities calling you who you did not want to hear from. I was an early adapter to losing my landline and going only with a cell phone. One of the early advantages of that was I got no unsolicited calls. Well, that was a long time ago. Then there came a day when I answered my cell phone (because only those who I wanted to hear from had my number) and I got a call that made me wonder, “how did they get my number?” I NEVER answer my phone now if I don’t recognize the number. And slowly but surely I’m getting more garbage texts too.
#2. Hollywood (Stay with me here). As I understand it from reading the boards here, a highly attractive quality to what Zoominfo is offering is the ability to get past the gatekeepers and go directly to the person who makes the decision. I have worked in (and out) of Hollywood for years and there is no better example of a “gatekeeper” culture. Actors, writers, producers, casting directors… caterers etc. are all trying to get to someone to pitch their value. Everyone is always looking for an in, trying a new gimmick. But the last thing most decision makers want to hear is “I’m an actor” or “I have this script…” or “I hope you’ll come to my show” etc. and the reason for this is because people have had their time wasted so often by people who aren’t good enough or simply not what they’re looking for or are unprofessional or crazy or annoying or dangerous or…
So there are gatekeepers. Gatekeepers are often unfair and arbitrary and develop systems that often do not produce the best results possible. But they’re necessary because if they weren’t there there’d be chaos. Take actors. The number of gatekeepers in the way of a new, unknown actor are ridiculous. So actors are always trying to figure out how to get in front of the right people.
There are always new “Zoominfos” in the world of Hollywood. By that I mean there’s an effort by those on the outside to try and get information that can help them get on the inside. What tends to happen though is some enterprising person breaks in by doing something different. Others hear how they did it and almost overnight everyone is doing that thing. What was original last week is quickly considered trite, then embarrassing, then outright unprofessional.
In the 1990s, before the internet made this kind of information common, there was a prized sheet that would go to casting people and agents. It cost a lot of money and it was definitely not for actors. But it gave all the information of what projects were going to be shooting when and who was casting and what the parts were, etc. If memory serves me, there was a person who worked in a casting office somewhere who was stealing that and selling photo copies to a few loyal customers and then those actors would submit themselves through their bogus agency for parts they thought were appropriate. I think that kind of worked for a time because these original people were qualified actors and submissions to the right people weren’t out of proportion. It still didn’t get them a lot more auditions because again, there’s a gauntlet to go through still, but it was under the radar and occasionally worked out but the person selling that stolen information was himself a gatekeeper of sorts because he was very, very particular about who he sold to and how many people knew because the VALUE he was offering was basically SCARCITY. Once too many people had this information its value was blown.
I use the entertainment industry as an example because I’m familiar with it and it is often so achingly obvious this world of gatekeepers - those on the inside and those on the outside. But I am sure most other businesses have this element in one way or another. The reason there are “gatekeepers” in all of them is because they are necessary.
I think the analogy to Zoominfo is clear. Some posters seem touchy that the inference is Zoominfo is made up of bad people or if you like the company it means you’re a dodgy person. I don’t think that’s the case. I see Ysdrasill’s experience though as a challenge to Zoominfo’s long term value. Yes, there are those sales people with a great product who have done all the research about the company they are pitching to and if they could just get to the right person in that company then everybody’s problems are solved!
But the value of information is its scarcity, otherwise it gets cheap, fast. That golden information those actors were stealing in the 90s is on the internet and easy to find for free and everybody has it so it’s not a competitive advantage. The salesperson who has a great product and knows his audience and has worked hard, etc. is lumped right in with the guy who just calls anywhere anytime because he believes if he can make 100 calls he’ll make 5 sales. Today a person using Zoominfo to get to the “right” person and make his life better is an enterprising go-getter. But will there be a day when using Zoominfo to get to someone be just as desperate / lame / creepy / annoying / exhausting as knocking on someone’s front door at home?
I may be misunderstanding or unaware of all of Zoominfo’s value but I have my concerns that whatever value they are bringing to customers today may soon be information that isn’t very valuable. Today getting the employee flow chart for every company is probably a great lead. The very fact that you are calling this person on their office phone and know what they do and what they are after - today that person does not have his hackles up because if you got through to him then you must be legit. But as Ysdrasill’s post highlights, at some point that guy will have set up some new type of gate keeping system. He recognizes that he may be losing out on that one in a million call that solves his problems but he’s happy to avoid the other million time wasting solicitations.
The most important thing in business is relationships. Do I trust this person? Gatekeeping allows one to feel a certain level of trust without yet knowing the person. Sure, I don’t know this person talking to me but they past through some of the gates so they must be some level of legit. Zoominfo is allowing people to not so much bypass the gatekeepers but it is bestowing upon people the status of someone who has actually gone through the gatekeeping process (“he got to me, he must be legit.”) The more people using ZoomInfo though, the less using ZoomInfo will make you legit.
It’s possible I’m a little off here and this mythical person in the flow chart that a ZoomInfo person is trying to get to is not as popular as I’m imagining. Maybe he won’t be overrun with unwanted solicitations the way Ysdrasill has been.
Whatever the case, the most important thing in business is relationships. Linked-In is clever because it incorporates that. It confers a certain level of legitimacy by showing who a person’s relationships are with. And if we have a shared relationship with someone who is reaching out to us then that helps us build a relationship. I am just thinking out loud but I think if Zoominfo is to grow past this initial phase of “oh my gosh, this is great information!” they may need to play a bigger role in how their information is used or at least - how they make it work for both the solicitor and the solicited.
So maybe all this is saying, I’m curious to learn more about what zoominfo has to offer in the way of helping both sides of a prospective sale gain comfort in developing a relationship. Otherwise I wonder if one day this offering flames out.
Thanks to all who make this board great.